Yesterday I went to the Capitol in Austin to testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee about proposed cuts to CHIP and Medicaid. I left home about 8am and got home at 10:30pm, and much of the time in between was spent waiting to speak. About halfway through the waiting, I heard the head of the committee mention, offhandedly, that the speaking time was two minutes rather than the original three so I ran out into the hall to edit my speech down and re-time it. AGH!! Cutting 1/3 of a speech on the fly is tough, especially when you need to retain the impact and information of the original! I think I managed it, though. Below is what I originally planned to say:

To the Distinguished Chair and members of the Senate Finance Committee,

My name is Kyla [Last Name] and I live in [City], TX. Mr. [MoC], you are my Senator. I am testifying on behalf of my family, in opposition to the proposed Senate Budget that will make extreme cuts to the CHIP and Medicaid programs which my children rely on for access to healthcare.

We are hard-working, middle class, tax paying individuals who are parenting three children, two of whom are medically complex. Without Medicaid and CHIP, we would be financially ruined and there is a very strong chance our children would not be alive today.

K, my 11 year old, is covered by Medicaid as part of the Medically Dependent Children’s Program which has already experienced cuts that have affected her care. She has mitochondrial disease which affects multiple body systems. It took us years to find her diagnosis and build a team of physicians that understand the disease and how to treat it. She relies on a feeding tube for her nutrition and requires supplemental oxygen, along with a variety of other needs. She see multiple specialists across two hospital systems. The cuts to MDCP have forced us to make difficult decisions between her specialist medical team and the hospital system that is best equipped to treat and monitor her rare disease, but we are thankful that she is still able to access the things she needs to survive. Further cuts could be catastrophic for her and for us. Katie is a very intelligent child with a love for reading, science, and performing in musical theater, in spite of her medical challenges. Her future could be very bright and she could greatly contribute to the future success of our wonderful state, but if she loses access to her physicians and the medical equipment she relies on to survive, she may not have a future. Medicaid is her lifeline, literally, and there are thousands of children like her that depend on it for their very survival.

My youngest child, Josephine, was born in 2015 with a large hole in her heart that required open heart surgery. Medicaid is the reason she had access to the pediatrician, echocardiogram, and cardiologist that diagnosed her. Medicaid is the reason she could be hospitalized, stabilized, medicated, and have a life-saving surgical procedure. Medicaid is the reason we were able to have her multiple life-threatening food allergies diagnosed. If we had not been able to see a doctor and get testing, she could have easily died from those undiagnosed allergies. Medicaid and CHIP have also given her access to life-saving Epi-Pens, regular cardiology check-ups to monitor her heart status, and access to therapy that is teaching her how to safely eat so that she will not be reliant on a feeding tube in the future. Josie’s young life has barely started and for her to have a chance of long-term survival, she needs continued access to the medical care that keeps her alive and monitors her conditions. This is something you can give her, a chance at life; a chance to grow up as a proud Texan and contribute to our state.

I know you are all tasked with the difficult job of setting a budget for our state and choosing what to prioritize. As a taxpayer, I believe that prioritizing our children’s health and well-being is a wise investment that will pay dividends for a long time to come. It is also important to remember that these are not just numbers to be balanced, they represent real lives that you hold great power over, to help or to harm, even if that may not be your intent. Texas prides itself on being pro-life and these children desperately need you to choose life for each and everyone of them. There are no acceptable casualties here.

Thank you for your time.

It was a long day of waiting with 3 hours of driving added on both ends, but it was worth it. Speaking up for what is right is always worth it and we all have the power to use our voices and stories in powerful ways. I hate public speaking, it cannot be overstated how much I HATE public speaking. I had that buzzy, adrenaline-fueled, feeling of anxiety from the time I decided to go until the time it was done…then I had the shaking hands of relief for a good 5-10 minutes. I barely slept the night before. I’m sure my voice quivered the entire 1 minute and 58 seconds that I was speaking, but I DID it. And I couldn’t have done it without my super husband cheering me on. In fact, I didn’t even think going to testify in person was an option, but he encouraged me to go and took my day shift of parenting so that I could. When I was missing Josie, this is what he sent me:

I mean, that guy is awesome.

I met a couple of wonderful women yesterday and heard SO many parents, professionals, and citizens speaking in support of a variety of important issues. I’m not sure what the outcome will be, but it was very encouraging. I’m very glad I was able to lend my (shaky) voice to an effort to affect change in our state. I highly recommend getting involved in whatever way you can!